Question #2: Grad student advocacy
Kendra L. Andrews
Aside from creating a website to foster new WPAs and to share the knowledge and experience of professional WPAs, I have contributed to graduate student needs in a number of other ways. Although it is not directly related to WPA work, I serve as my program’s student association representative and act as a voice for my program’s student body with the faculty committee for our program. I have fought for better working conditions, more student administrative clout, and how to keep the graduate students’ needs in mind when growing the PhD program.
I also have served as the Co-Chair to the Carolina Rhetoric Conference (the NC/SC chapter of RSA) where I planned, organized, and produced a two-day conference and reorganization of expectations from multiple universities in the Carolinas. This year, I am the Co-Chair for the 2017 CRDM Symposium (https://crdmsyposium2017.wordpress.ncsu.edu/), which is a two-day event that supports graduate as well as undergraduate work and brings in speakers to broaden our knowledge, our scholarship, and our network. At this CRDM Symposium in March, we will be bringing in Dr. Adam Banks as our keynote and will explore the remixing of academic and cultural identities with the DJ as activist in the university.
Through the careful organization of these events, I could provide enriching experiences, new or different scholarship, and professional development for graduate students. I believe that it is imperative that graduate students not only delve deeply into their research, but also are exposed to different scholarship that may complement, challenge, or extend their own studies. (back to the top)
On my campus, I have supported graduate students in a few ways. First, I have served as a mentor aiding in the professional and emotional support of five new GTAs through their first year of teaching and coursework. Helping them navigate new situations and find their work/life balance, I act as a source of confirmation but also as an advocate when situations arise which we cannot solve together. Second, I have worked on our College Composition Committee which seeks to hear and meet the needs of our GTAs, support awards in student and teacher recognition, and update and maintain pedagogical support structures on campus. Finally, I have recently been appointed to assist the WPA so I will co-teach and plan our orientation program working to welcome new GTAs, help them with those intimidating first few weeks in the program, and support students as they begin teaching in the classroom for the first time. (back to the top)
I am currently working on a research project (blending theory and personal narratives from GTAs) that examines the complex liminalities that GTAs with disabilities experience. This project will give voice to an underserved GTA population and help diversify how we define and consider the needs of both GTAs and Graduate WPAs. As a Graduate WPA, one of my duties is serving as a mentor for my fellow GTAs. This role takes many forms, varying from offering advice for following ADA accommodations to giving pep talks and encouragement to new teachers entering the classroom for the first time. (back to the top)
I have been a voice for graduate student needs and experiences on my campus in many different ways, including my work as a graduate student representative on a search committee and my role as president of Phorum, a graduate student group for rhetoric and professional communication students. Two years ago, I had the privilege of representing graduate students on a search committee for the Director of the Writing and Media Center at Iowa State. During this work, I kept the needs of graduate students in mind, looking for candidates who were not only interested in working with graduate students but were also mindful of the many different challenges that we face, including balancing professional and academic responsibilities, and particularly in writing center work, balancing the role of a teacher with the role of a tutor or consultant. In addition, as a Phorum officer (secretary, and currently president), I have worked to advocate for my peers’ needs and ideas. During my time on Phorum, we have raised money for a graduate student travel scholarship, we have continued our successful speaker series events, and we have begun systematically collecting all of our good news so we can share it with each other and with alums. As Phorum president, I was asked to organize an inclusion workshop for graduate students, which provided a safe space to discuss problems with micro-aggressions and discrimination. All of these experiences have helped me to become a confident voice for graduate student needs and concerns. (back to the top)
This year, as a gWPA, I’m an advocate for departmental visibility. Graduate students often feel that they inhabit a marginal space in the university, and so to combat that, I cheer on and promote the unique approaches my peers take to integrating best practices for teaching within their classrooms. I send encouraging texts/emails, talk with them and check in whenever I can, and try to find ways that they can share their knowledge with the department, as I am in charge of faculty professional development. This year, we have had more graduate students present at faculty workshops than ever before, and our faculty has greatly benefited from the insight our graduate students have in regards to teaching. Graduate students often feel that they inhabit a marginal space. By promoting their work as pedagogues, our graduate students feel as if they serve a more important role within the department. Moreover, the department witnesses our graduate students’ capabilities and enthusiasm within the classroom. (back to the top)
Graduate students’ needs vary during their tenure in their programs, but the need for a peer community and motivation to get the work done remains consistent. Supporting these needs, I’ve been active with informal “Brown Bag” sessions that focus upon composition praxis, as both a presenter and attendee. I’ve worked with the Assistant Director of the Composition Program to brainstorm topics and to recruit presenters because of my investment in informal conversations about teaching. These sessions enervate presenters, giving them due recognition for their innovative ideas; they also develop community among a cohort of students who may not see each other consistently. Secondly, my own desire for bettering myself as a teacher lead me to ask to visit many of my peers classrooms– beyond the formal, semester-long shadowing program UD had. I took this concern to the WPA, and we now have a formal Peer-to-Peer program that fosters classroom visitation and discussion as a consistent feature of the composition program’s teaching community. Lastly, I’ve become active in the “Write on Site” initiative at UD, which brings together faculty from across campus to be writing buddies. Sometimes, we all need a little accountability, and Write on Site ensures that you see the same faces around a quiet table of people doing work one or more times a week. I now host a Write-on-Site and I’ve encouraged other graduate students to join me in branching out outside the department and getting to know the wider university community. (back to the top)
I serve as a voice as a voice for graduate students at my university by serving as a member of the graduate student union, as well as serving as an officer for my university’s graduate organization. Furthermore, I have served on several WPA task forces, and have worked to be a voice for graduate students in those roles. In my work, I explore how people with disabilities use the internet to express their identities outside of the ones that are created for them by academia, and this work can be easily applied to meeting the needs of underserved and underrepresented graduate students. Finally, I have also given workshops to graduate teaching assistants and graduate student assistants to educate them about teaching students with disabilities. I have also developed a very detailed idea of what graduate students need by consulting many of them in my writing center work as well as in my role as the facilitator of my university’s dissertation writing collective. (back to the top)
Since beginning my PhD program in 2012, I have served as a Graduate School Senator representing the needs of the English department’s graduate students. I have also served as a board member on the department’s English Graduate Student Association, which acts much like a Senate on a smaller scale. Additionally, I am currently serving as the Assistant Director of the College Writing Program, wherein my main responsibilities involve acting as a liaison between our graduate teaching instructors and the Director of the College Writing Program. In all of these positions, I have surveyed the needs and desires of the English department’s graduate students, and then voiced these issues to the larger governing bodies. As a result, our graduate students have been able to cast votes and make their voices heard regarding many campus- and department-wide decisions, such as allocation of funding, writing program assessment protocol, and the creation of professionalization opportunities. (back to the top)
I am the online representative for the Graduate Council for my program. I also created a facebook group for my online cohort and I’ve reached out to other online students in the program. (back to the top)
Shane A. Wood
I’ve served as the first-second year English administrative intern, which works directly with the FSE writing program administrator and intercedes any questions and concerns graduate students have. I’ve also served on various committees for our graduate student organization in English, including the events committee, textbook committee, FSE committee, and the first-year liaison for composition graduate students. Last year, I co-created the first inaugural Writers’ Faire at KU, a showcase of undergraduate student compositions in our first-second year program. I facilitate conversations and discussions in our English program, and I’ve provided opportunities for growth for teachers and graduate students. I helped coordinate workshops for visiting composition scholars, and I’ve served to train incoming graduate students. I also work to generate conversations outside the English department. I acknowledge that I’m just one graduate student voice, not “the” voice for all graduate students. I’ve cultivated friendships and relationships with graduate students, and I’ve hopefully created spaces where graduate students can share their voice with me. (back to the top)